The Boston Celtics march toward the playoffs this week with the team continuing to have players out with myriad injuries, as other have battled the flu.
The sad news: Kyrie Irving will be out for the playoffs, along with Gordon Hayward, who is almost certainly out for the rest of the season as well, and Daniel Theis. Brad Stevens said before Friday’s game the team is also planning to have to make it through at least the first round of the playoffs before it can hope to get Marcus Smart back from his March 16 thumb surgery.
Guerschon Yabusele was added to the injury report this week after missing Sunday’s game with knee pain.
With such a vast injury list, players such as Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum will have to be ready to be put to the test and face the challenges of the playoffs. But it will showcase their respective strengths and help them progress in future seasons.
Could Kawhai Leonard’s potentially availability this offseason affect how the Celtics move forward with their youth?
He didn’t play much this year due to a lingering quad injury and ongoing conflict with the medical staff of the San Antonio Spurs. But he is an All-NBA player when healthy and engaged.
A deal for Leonard would likely cost Brown, Rozier, Tatum, or a combination of them, plus draft picks. Should the Celtics deal Brown for Leonard?
Brown could eventually be that overall Celtic high-scorer with strong defense like Leonard. The No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft has grown dramatically this season, and should continue to evolve at 21 years old.
Or should the Celtics instead wait on the possibility of Anthony Davis? Or should they just stand pat and ride the developing youth of this year’s team next year, along with the expected fully healthy return of Hayward and Irving?
As for this year’s playoff push, Jabari Bird has been a hustler, has great athleticism and has emerged as an option. Bird, for sure, deserves some minutes for all his hard work. But because Bird is on a two-day G-League contract, the Celtics would have to cut a player from the main 15-man roster to convert Bird’s contract and make him eligible for the postseason.
Why keep Abdel Nader over Bird? Nader has struggled of late, seems to play in slow motion, and has had a hard time keeping up with the player he’s defending. While Nader has not shown that consistent level you need to be in the league – especially in the playoffs – Bird has flashed as a good finisher, has played some solid defense, and seems to really be developing a role with the team.
Nader has had a hard time developing that trust out on the floor and Stevens has gone with Bird over Nader at stretches of the past two games.
That will be one of the storylines to watch as the team plays its final two games of the regular season this week before opening up in the playoffs this weekend.
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